Beating the heat on Canada Day in Sarnia ( photo by Dave Dentinger)

Doctor Says More Can Be Done To Beat The Heat

A local health official agrees with Ontario’s chief medical officer that more steps need to be taken to help the public deal with heat-related dangers now that three deaths are being investigated in relation to the recent heatwave.

None of the deaths under investigation are from Chatham-Kent, according to the medical officer of health Dr. David Colby. He said it doesn’t mean the area shouldn’t be more prepared for future incidents though.

“The real issues are making sure that people can deal with [extreme heat] and have access to air-conditioned places,” Colby said. “We are very concerned about shut-ins, elderly people that live alone, and pets. All of those require a great deal of care.”

Colby said Chatham-Kent is situated pretty well geographically to deal with heatwaves as it is close to bodies of water, where temperatures tend to be much lower. He added getting into water of any kind can help cool people off.

“Even very warm water is an effective coolant as it conducts heat away from the body,” Colby said.

Colby said if there was an extreme heat event in the area, designated cooling stations would be set up. He only recalled ever seeing one set up three years ago, but it wasn’t utilized much.

One aspect of the recent heatwave Colby wanted to clear up for Ontarians is the comparison between three deaths potentially caused by heat here compared to 70 in Quebec. He said Quebec hasn’t seen more extreme conditions, it has more to do with how each province classifies “cause of death.”

According to Colby, if someone has a severe illness that is made worse by the heat and they die, it isn’t considered a death caused by heat in Ontario. He added, because the heat wasn’t the root cause, it wouldn’t be the cause of death on a death certificate.

“I believe they have a different system in Quebec and they’re saying any death that was exacerbated by heat, they’re claiming it was causing those deaths,” Colby said. “That’s not how we look at it in Ontario.”

Ultimately the doctor said we have to think about a response to heat by creating more shade in cities and combating climate change.

“We have always had extreme heat events, but they seem to be occurring with greater frequency,” Colby said. “The problem is that [climate change] is presented as a controversy. There is overwhelming consensus amongst climate scientists that this is real.”